Champions: Michelle Lambert, California’s Musical Powerhouse

Make Music Day

In this interview, we talk with Michelle Lambert, a talented multi-instrumentalist from San Francisco, California. We’ll explore Michelle’s musical journey, from her start to where she is today. Michelle shares her experiences and thoughts on music, giving us a peek into her life as a full-time musician. She’s known for mixing pop and country music in her performances, bringing joy to audiences wherever she goes.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience at Make Music Day?

Last year, I participated in Make Music Day San Francisco, here in California. I was excited about being part of this global movement. I found out through social media that this event took place not only in the USA but around the world. It was a cool experience, and I really enjoyed it.

How did you start making music?

I started chasing my dreams as an artist about ten years ago. To take it back to the very beginning, I began classical violin in a very small town where I grew up. I followed my siblings and began playing classical violin using the Suzuki method with a sixteenth-size violin. Then, I had a really good teacher to keep me focused and inspired by. I began playing at around two years old. In this small town, there was not much to do, so if you got into something, it was really easy to stay focused. So, I got into violin, and shortly after, I did classical piano and singing, just kind of learning about music fundamentals. Then, as a kid, I fell in love with more popular music. Once I started to find my favorite artists, then I would start to try to write songs. By the time I was a teenager, all I wanted to do was be a professional artist, and singer-songwriter, travel, make music, and connect with the world in that way. I went to a music school in Boston, Berklee College of Music, where I earned my four-year degree. After graduating, I went to Nashville to make a living. The first year was very intimidating, but after that, I got a bunch of tours going on, I did a lot of work, and I was working most days as a musician while writing songs in the background. I was touring with all kinds of hip-hop bands, and country bands, I was doing the singer-songwriter nights, and playing the honky-tonks, I got to play in the Grand Ole Opry and the women’s NCAA Final Four with like 18000 people, which was very exciting and very fun. After about three and a half years in Nashville, I realized that although I was making a living as a musician, I wasn’t pursuing my dream of playing my own music and having my own show. So I stopped everything, moved to LA, recorded an album, performed up and down the West Coast, a little bit in the western states, then went to Colorado, made one of the music videos, got some time there, just touring a bit and doing a little bit more of songwriting. Then I moved to the East Coast and toured in the South Florida area for a while. I released a song called ‘My California,’ which went viral on the West Coast, particularly in California. I looked at that as an opportunity to take advantage of. So, I moved back to the Bay Area, which has been my home base for the last five or six years. I’ve been touring in this area. I’ll be doing more out-of-state touring, especially this year. That’s the journey in a nutshell. It’s a rollercoaster ride, and you’ve got to be ready for the ups and downs, but it’s fun. I feel very lucky to be able to chase a dream that keeps me alive.

You’ve been doing this full-time ever since you finished school. At what point in life did you say “I want to do this as a living”?

When I was a teenager, I think it all started when I played in a local band. I got involved because I played the fiddle, and it seemed interesting. We performed at various local shows, which, as a kid, I found very fun. Then I remember getting paid for the first time, and I realized you could make money doing this. It made me think that pursuing a music career could be a fun path to explore. I think that was the first time where I was just thinking about how to make this dream into reality and put it together and build that.

What genres do you enjoy playing?

I’d say the biggest genre I love is pop, but it’s a very big umbrella. I love artists from Ed Sheeran, to Shakira; I have a lot of favorites right now, such as Miley Cyrus, and Taylor Swift. There’s a lot of inspiring music out there, with many artists embracing their authentic selves, which is exciting to see. So, primarily, I’d say it’s pop. I also love some country artists, such as Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert. I always have the Devil Went Down In Georgia, Charlie Daniel’s song, in my set as well. I love Maroon 5, and some California music. I’d describe my style as an alt-pop country fusion.

In your presentations and concerts, do you usually play your own songs? Or do you also put on some covers?

I do a lot of originals. Typically at an artist show, I’ll do probably 80-90% originals. If it’s like a fair festival, I’m going to throw in some of my influences. It’s fun to make your own rendition of the songs and bring your version of them to life. So, I’d say it depends on the show, but there’s always a lot of originals in there, which is very important.

When you started, was it hard to get people to actually listen to your original music?

I was so shy in the beginning that I wouldn’t even mention it was my own music; I’d just include it. It’s funny because I think original music has always been my calling. I felt like I ran away from it for a long time, but it kept pulling me back until I realized I couldn’t ignore it. Then, I noticed that people responded to my music because I have a deeper emotional connection to those songs since they come from within me. I finally realized that this approach works, and I started sharing a little story about the songs, which helped connect with the audience in another way. It took me a while to become confident enough to share those pieces of information about my music.

How would you describe what music means to you?

I think the coolest thing about music is that it can change your feelings dramatically. It can make you feel better, it can make you feel sad, but in a way where you can work through those emotions. It’s incredible to consider the influence of both my own songs and those of others in creating such meaningful experiences and sharing them with others.

Finally, last question: What would you say your goal in music is?

I like to leave the future open; the sky is the limit. But I always believe that what unfolds before me is something I’m prepared for. I want to continue expanding on the path I’m on. As I mentioned, I view music as a calling, and I prefer not to make rigid five or ten-year plans. What if what I truly need comes along unexpectedly? It seems that every time I do make a plan, the opposite occurs, which often turns out to be exactly what I need. I’ll keep being genuine and putting out true music, true feelings, and being authentic. I believe that’s the best I can offer at all times.